Caribbean Critique

Caribbean Critique: Antillean Critical Theory from Toussaint to Glissant

NICK NESBITT
Volume: 26
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Pages: 346
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt5vjnb3
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  • Book Info
    Caribbean Critique
    Book Description:

    Caribbean Critique seeks to define and analyze the distinctive contribution of francophone Caribbean thinkers to perimetric Critical Theory. The book argues that their singular project has been to forge a brand of critique that, while borrowing from North Atlantic predecessors such as Rousseau, Hegel, Marx, and Sartre, was from the start indelibly marked by the Middle Passage, slavery, and colonialism. Chapters and sections address figures such as Toussaint Louverture, Baron de Vastey, Victor Schoelcher, Aimé Césaire, René Ménil, Frantz Fanon, Maryse Condé, and Edouard Glissant, while an extensive theoretical introduction defines the essential parameters of 'Caribbean Critique.'

    eISBN: 978-1-84631-793-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Introduction: The Caribbean Critical Imperative
    (pp. 1-26)

    The generic prescription of universal justice as equality, premised upon the destruction of slavery, appeared fully formed asimmanent critiquefrom the first moments of the Haitian Revolution. In an extraordinary letter of June 1792, mere months after the initial uprising that had liberated the slaves of northern Saint-Domingue, three leaders of that movement (Jean François, Biassou, and Toussaint Louverture, signing as his fourteen-year-old nephew Belair) wrote to the colonial assembly. The three co-authors of this letter cast their demands to the assembly not in sectarian terms, nor on their own behalves, nor even on behalf of slaves or blacks...

  6. I. Tropical Equality:: The Politics of Principle

    • CHAPTER ONE Foundations of Caribbean Critique: From Jacobinism to Black Jacobinism
      (pp. 29-65)

      Why should a study of Caribbean Critique begin by examining French Jacobinism and its defense in the political writings of Kant? My motive in this chapter is not simply to pursue the lead C. L. R. James famously proposed when he entitled his classic study of the Haitian RevolutionThe Black Jacobins. Determining the precise relation between these two political sequences is certainly important, but I argue that 1789, Jacobinism, and Robespierre stand as the decisive refutation of Michel-Rolph Trouillot’s famous assertion that the events of the Haitian Revolution from 1791–1804 were ‘unthinkable’ (see Trouillot 1995: 82). Trouillot’s claim...

    • CHAPTER TWO Victor Schoelcher, Tocqueville, and the Abolition of Slavery
      (pp. 66-85)

      Throughout the nineteenth century, the complexities surrounding the abolition of slavery were enormous. The events of Toussaint Louverture’s capture and sacrifice, the defeat of Louis Delgrès’s and Ignace’s 1802 rebellion in Guadeloupe, and the subsequent defeat of Napoleon’s troops in Haiti meant that slavery would be reimposed in the French Caribbean colonies of Martinique and Guadeloupe at the same time that it was destroyed in the new state of Haiti. From 1802 to the 1848 abolition, this strange situation meant that slavery had been both abolished and reinstated in the remaining French colonies, while France’s onlyformercolony became an...

    • CHAPTER THREE Aimé Césaire and the Logic of Decolonization
      (pp. 86-117)

      Aimé Césaire’s struggle to define a politics of principle in the tradition this book is calling Caribbean Critique took shape with explicit reference to the legacy of Jacobinism, the Black Jacobinism of Toussaint Louverture, and the radical abolitionism of Victor Schoelcher. Both Jacobinism and Black Jacobinism became crucial to Césaire’s brand of critical thought and politics in the period of decolonization, but when Césaire made his first and perhaps most consequential political intervention, he was a young, inexperienced Martinican deputy to the French Assembly in the then-dominant French Communist Party. At that point, Victor Schoelcher was the abiding reference of...

    • CHAPTER FOUR ‘Stepping Outside the Magic Circle’: The Critical Thought of Maryse Condé
      (pp. 118-132)

      The writings of Maryse Condé are critical to their core. Her novels dismantle the pieties of everyday life to expose what lies beneath: the fragile narcissism of subjects who erect facades of ideology and self-importance around the naked core of their being to ward off ever-impinging social violence. This pervasive social violence takes a number of forms in Condé’s critical and creative vision – from the most intimate tribulations between mother and daughter to the anonymous violence of systemic dependency in a neo-colonial society that insistently reminds every individual – in employment, in consumption, in leisure and travel, in education,...

    • CHAPTER FIVE Édouard Glissant: From the Destitution of the Political to Antillean Ultra-leftism
      (pp. 133-156)

      Like Aimé Césaire and Frantz Fanon, Édouard Glissant combined a passionate engagement in the politics of decolonization with analysis of the modes and structures of French colonialism, from its origins to its singular perpetuation in the form it has taken since 1946 as the so-called ‘departmentalisation’ of the former ‘colony’ of Martinique (as well as Guadeloupe and French Guiana). In this chapter, I wish to focus on a number of Glissant’s most overtly ‘political’ texts, including his 1958 first novelLa Lézarde, which tells the story of a group of young Martinican anticolonial militants circa 1946; the little-known 1961Les...

  7. II. Critique of Caribbean Violence

    • CHAPTER SIX Jacobinism, Black Jacobinism, and the Foundations of Political Violence
      (pp. 159-172)

      If critique denotes in the Caribbean tradition the struggle to bring together a transcendental position of analysis and judgment over a given situation, with the effective means to intervene within that situation for its transformation, the promise of a critique of Caribbeanviolenceis to allow us to distinguish legitimate from illegitimate violence, to sort and discriminate (from the Greekkrinein) the rightful expression of power from the proscribed categories of illicit domination. If Kantian critique sought to establish and police the borders of legitimate reason, the critique of Caribbean violence has repeatedly rejected the transhistorical demarcation of the a...

    • CHAPTER SEVEN The Baron de Vastey and the Contradictions of Scribal Critique
      (pp. 173-191)

      As scholars, including Laurent Dubois and myself, have argued, it was revolutionary Saint-Domingue that remained faithful to the Jacobin ideals of liberty, equality, and fraternity in the wake of Thermidor and the rise of Napoleon and his administration’s ever-increasing determination to reimpose slavery upon the peripheral French colony. The events of the Haitian Revolution, Dubois writes, were ‘the most concrete expression of the idea that the rights proclaimed in France’s 1789 Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen were indeed universal’ (Dubois 2004: 3). Following the defeat of the French and the declaration of Haitian independence on January 1,...

    • CHAPTER EIGHT Revolutionary Inhumanism: Fanon’s On Violence
      (pp. 192-215)

      To read Fanon’s masterpiece,Les Damnés de la terre, today, a half-century after African decolonization and the triumph of the Algerian Revolution to which Fanon dedicated his life and thought, requires above all working through, critically and intensively, the complex and originalcritiqueof colonial, anddefenseof anticolonial violence that it contains. To do so requires above all rejecting all facile, unthinking dismissals of Fanon as an alleged ‘apostle of violence’ and to reject categorically the ridiculous, often-repeated claim of Hannah Arendt that Fanon celebrates ‘violence for its own sake’.¹ Fanon was not writing inLes Damnés de la...

    • CHAPTER NINE Aristide and the Politics of Democratization
      (pp. 216-228)

      The arduous struggle for a more democratic order in Haiti since the fall of Jean-Claude Duvalier in 1986 has sustained the imperative of an ongoing critique of postcolonial violence. Two recent books in particular delineate the contemporary stakes of this critical constant. Alex Dupuy’sThe Prophet and the Power: Jean-Bertrand Aristide(2007a) and Peter Hallward’sDamming the Flood: Haiti, Aristide, and the Politics of Containment(2007) together extensively document the complex and contentious path of the post-Duvalier era in Haitian politics. They describe the invention of a post-authoritarian populist political sequence, one that after 1990 coalesced around the charismatic leadership...

  8. III. The Critique of Relation

    • CHAPTER TEN Édouard Glissant: From the Poétique de la relation to the Transcendental Analytic of Relation
      (pp. 231-250)

      The concept of Relation is among the most central to all of Caribbean Critique. This chapter will argue that two models of relation have typified the field: Glissant’s influential discussion of Relation from 1990 on as an aesthetic (in the encompassing sense of a sensual experiencing-the-world-as-totality taken to constitute the elemental – and perhaps unsurpassable – mode of human being) and a model common to Césaire, Sartre, Fanon, and the Glissant of theDiscours antillaisthat perceives social relationality-initially-as alienation and structurally determined subalternality, the experience of which leads, however, to a call for a radical politics of disalienation and...

    • CHAPTER ELEVEN Césaire and Sartre: Totalization, Relation, Responsibility
      (pp. 251-261)

      Césaire’s initial critique of alienated colonial relationality received decisive theoretical formulation in Sartre’s phenomenology of political and ethical responsibility, developed during the years of the Algerian war in dialogue with Frantz Fanon. Although Sartre’s explosive preface toLes Damnés de la terreand his articles condemning the Algerian war and the torture done there in the name of all French citizens are well-known, the theoretical logic that lead Sartre famously to conclude that ‘We are All Murderers’ is less clear. I believe this is because that theorization lies buried, disbursed here and there through the many hundreds of pages of...

    • CHAPTER TWELVE Militant Universality: Absolutely Postcolonial
      (pp. 262-270)

      The Sartrean model of dialectical relation as the immanent totalization of any system is among the most basic antecedents and conceptual materials for the most comprehensive critique of postcolonial theory in general, and GlissantianRelationin particular, to date: Peter Hallward’s first book,Absolutely Postcolonial: Writing Between the Singular and the Specific.¹ A general critique of postcolonial theory, followed by a series of specific critiques of postcolonial thinkers makes up the greater part of that volume. I want to draw attention here to Hallward’s two very brief, yet absolutely central, theoretical ‘excurses’ at the heart of the book. These texts...

  9. Conclusion: The Incandescent I, Destroyer of Worlds
    (pp. 271-287)

    If Toussaint Louverture is the founding figure of Caribbean Critique, Aimé Césaire is surely its greatest and most steadfast practitioner. Césaire’s legacy is to have remained faithful to a single axiom in the face of unmitigated and intolerable injustice: fidelity to the revolutionary imperatives of freedom, equality, and fraternity, the unknown implications of which must be at every moment interrogated and experimentally confirmed in the pursuit of the universal, undivided equality of all. While he rightly celebrated the legacy and accomplishments of afro-Atlantic cultures, these specificities never served togroundthe ethical and political claims he made against global imperialism....

  10. Appendix: Letter of Jean-François, Belair, and Biassou/Toussaint, July 1792
    (pp. 288-291)
  11. Notes
    (pp. 292-323)
  12. Bibliography
    (pp. 324-338)
  13. Index
    (pp. 339-346)